I have officially left France. After two weeks in Lyon, gastronomic and market epicenter of France, and another week in the Lot region with my host family, my visa was up and I had a date with a plane to Larnaca, Cyprus.
Lyon was a nice respite after the whirlwind of giving my parents a tour of France – I got to moon around old museums (for free! LOVE my student card), peruse practically every open air market in the city, and acquaint myself with breathing in a constant stream of cigarette smoke — the dangers of hanging around young French folk.
Then I received the unexpected but extremely welcome invitation to meet up with my host family near the town of Cahors, in the center/southwest of France, where we vacationed in true style – sleeping in, eating lots of dry sausage, picking wild prunes, and eating sweet, melt-y orange melon at every meal (as an appetizer, oddly enough). Hmmmm…and reading in this hammock near the barn.
To be honest, I was lucky. I managed to convince the French consulate in Houston that I needed extra time after my studies were over, so they gave me a blissfully long six months in the land of cheese, wine, and everything nice. I arrived on January 20, 2014, and made my heart-wrenching exit on the July 18, which gave me almost precisely six months – or 180 days – to be seduced, confused, charmed, disappointed, and beguiled by La France.
I truly feel as though I found/created a second self here. I read an article by a famed French linguist early on in my semester that was expounding the virtues of learning different languages, because each taught you a different way to interact with and see the world. My French self is more moderate, more feminine, and less chatter-y than my English self, and I’ve gotten to like her.
So, other than a split personality, what did I gain?
1. An appreciation/dangerous obsession with goat’s cheese.
2. A second language.
3. A host family that I hope to stay in contact with for the rest of my life!
4. Some dear, dear friends in the South of France.
5. A much improved confidence level concerning myself, romance, and solo travel.
6. 10 pounds in sorbet.
7. The best outdoor shopping of MY LIFE.
I am so happy to have had this experience, and so grateful I got to finish it with a proper French summer vacation AKA hanging out in an old stone house in the countryside, eating too much food, and swimming.
Au revoir. A la prochaine.